Showman Stuart Broad hands England 'moral victory' in Ashes as he bows out with a bang

Bowler produced stirring farewell performance as hosts levelled series in fifth Test against Australia at The Oval

Stuart Broad took the last two Australian wickets in his final Test match at The Oval as England squared the Ashes series 2-2. AP
Powered by automated translation

At the start of his two-day fairy-tale goodbye to professional cricket, Stuart Broad was given a Sunday morning guard of honour by the visiting Australians.

Alongside was Jimmy Anderson, the bowler who at that point shared a 1,292-wicket partnership with the departing English quick. The Australian players tried to induce Anderson to walk the guard of honour on his birthday but he turned their pleas down, vowing to continue playing as he turned 41.

Broad scored a six with his last flash of the bat. A day later, the Test at The Oval concluded when Broad took the final two wickets. His showmanship was on display as he turned Todd Murphy's bails for luck before bowling the spinner the next ball. The first to congratulate him when he then took Alex Carey's wicket to end the five-match Ashes series was Anderson.

The Oval cricket ground in south London proclaims itself to be the birthplace of Ashes cricket. A mural outside the stadium records the Test match that England lost that prompted a fake newspaper obituary in The Sporting Times: "In affectionate remembrance of English cricket, which died at The Oval on 29th August, 1882. The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

By the time the Ashes is next played there in 2027, it is likely that many of the giants of the game at the ground on Monday will no longer feature. For the fans last weekend, it was perhaps a last chance to see not just Broad but Anderson, David Warner, Steve Smith and others in a five-day game in England.

With the dramatic result secured in the last hour of permissible play on Monday evening, it is easy to forget that Australia are leaving England victorious. The 2-2 series result means that the visitors retained the Ashes, having won at home in 2022.

Just seven weeks ago, the Australians also claimed the World Test Championship in a victory, at The Oval, over India. That match showcased a classic form of Test cricket in which the wicketkeeper Alex Carey proved the backbone of the team, not least with slow and determined stands of 48 and 66 not out. Set a record 444 to win on the final day, India fell short – bowled out for 234.

The character of the Australian side was what was really tested in England, not just by Broad's antics. After the Indian player Shubman Gill was given out from a disputed catch by Cameron Green, the crowd in the stands at The Oval was incensed.

As the Australians returned to the Bedser stand for lunch, chants of "cheat, cheat" rained down on them as they left the field. To their credit, many of the players, including Smith, continued to sign autographs going up the steps even as the jeers built up.

Australia captain Pat Cummins with the replica Ashes urn at the end of the fifth Test at The Oval on July 31, 2023. Getty

When the Ashes reached Lord's – which bills itself as the home of cricket – for the second Test, the cry of cheating was again heard. This time sacrilegiously in the Long Room of the Lord's pavilion, causing Usman Khawaja, another probable last-time visitor to the Ashes in England, to lash out verbally at the barracking members of the poshest club.

The Marylebone Cricket Club reprimanded its members and apologised to the visitors. The incident came after Australia – that man Carey again – stumped his opposite number Johnny Bairstow, who had carelessly wandered forward thinking the over had been called and it was safe. It was sharp gamesmanship but soon drew in the two countries' prime ministers.

Rishi Sunak, the UK Prime Minister, let his official spokesman make clear his dismay. "The PM agrees with Ben Stokes – he said he simply wouldn't want to win a game in the manner Australia did," he said.

At the Nato summit Sunak and Australian PM Anthony Albanese were swapping cards with cricketing jabs. The Aussie presented a photo of the stumping, while Sunak had an image from Headingley, where England won.

The big issue of the Ashes was the brand of cricket, known as "Bazball", introduced by England captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. There were many who asked the question: "What is it."

It is not a system. It doesn't have a framework. It is simply an approach that looks for maximum pressure at all times. Statistics in cricket are legion. One stat that shows that Bazball really has an impact was the runs scored to balls faced by the opening batsmen. Khawaja scored 480 runs across the series from 1,246 balls while Zak Crawley for England scored 450 runs from 548.

For as long as people debate the series, Stokes's decision to declare at 393 for 8 in the first Test at Edgbaston will be forever disputed. Australia replied with 386 in their first innings and then overtook England's second-innings total of 273 to win by two wickets.

As the sun burst through the fast-moving clouds on Monday evening, a pedestrian asked a cheering England supporter what was at stake. By that stage, the man was sensing victory in the last Test, if not the series.

"What's it for?" came the reply. "A moral victory, of course."

Final day of 5th Ashes Test - in pictures

Updated: August 29, 2023, 8:35 AM